Couch-to-5K is a new Xavi initiative aimed at our whole community. Young and old, families and friends, big and small; nearly all of us can challenge ourselves (and each other) to get fitter and healthier.
Medical experts agree that regular exercise, like running, helps to reduce the risk of chronic illnesses, improve our mood and keep weight under control. However, taking up running can seem like a scary thought, especially if you feel unfit or out of shape.
Which is why Couch-to-5K is designed to get you off the couch and gradually work you up to running 5K in just 9 weeks.
This page provides everything you need to get started, from an app for your phone to links about correct running shoes. So get together with a friend or family member, or even challenge a work colleague, and take your first steps today!
Once you’ve started we would love you to tell us all about it on our brand new Talk Xavi forum. Here you can share your experiences, tell us about your progress and help to motivate others.
Are you ready to take the Couch-to-5K challenge?
What is Couch-to-5K?
Couch to 5K is a running plan that has been developed to help absolute beginners get into running with the end goal of running 5K. The plan involves three runs per week with a day of rest inbetween and there is a different schedule for each of the nine weeks. It gradually increases the distance that you run over the course of the nine weeks, starting with easier runs on the first week and eventually leading to 5K in week 9.
What are the health benefits of Couch-to-5K?
There are plenty of health benefits from getting into running. Firstly, it is an easy way of improving your physical health – running regularly will improve the health of your heart and lungs. It can also help you lose weight, especially if it is combined with a healthy diet. It can also reduce the risk of chronic illnesses such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and a stroke.
Running could also benefit and improve your mental health. Taking on the challenge of Couch-to-5K could help boost your confidence and self-belief as you prove to yourself that you can set yourself a target and achieve a goal. Running regularly can also be a great stress reliever and has even been shown to combat depression.
There is an app available to download on Blackberry World that is the perfect aid to help you achieve the 5K.
It has a week by week workout report where you can check your progress and there are also eight helpful warm up videos for you to follow to make sure you have warmed up correctly in preparation for your run.
There is a reminder setting whereby you can set yourself reminders of what days and times you should go running in order to complete the programme. In addition to this there is a timer that can be listened to while running with voice alerts that tell you when you need to change from, for example, warming up to jogging, or when to start cooling down.
Downloading via your Blackberry
To download the app, click on the Blackberry World icon on your Blackberry and search for “Couch-to-5K”. For the full 9 week programme choose the PAID version (£0.75).
NOTE: Not all Blackberry devices will be supported, so please check that you’re Blackberry version is before attempting to download the app.
There is a free version of the Couch-to-5K app available. However, this is a taster that does not let you continue after week two, so we would suggest that you download the PAID version.
NOTE: This is a third-party app and onemedifund has no involvement in its development or support.
If you are just looking for something a bit simpler to follow, click here to download and print a Couch-to-5K running plan with a day-by-day guide for each week of the programme.Download the PDF running plan
Below we have provided some FAQs that may help. Click on the titles to reveal the answers.
A1. All you really need to get started with running is a good pair of running shoes. You need shoes that are designed for running, fit well and match your foot type and running style. Women also need to make sure that they wear a good, supportive sports bra. The sports bra should fit you properly and not be too stretched out. Whether you’re running in cold or warm weather, you need to make sure you’re wearing the proper clothing for comfort and safety.
A2. Of course, you can walk during your runs! Some people who are just getting started with running assume that walking is “giving up” or cheating. But taking walk breaks is actually a smart strategy for building your endurance and improving your running. Even after they’ve been running for a while, some runners still use a run/walk strategy, especially for long runs or races.
A3. You should breathe through both your mouth and nose when you’re running. Your muscles need oxygen to keep moving and your nose simply can’t deliver enough.Make sure you’re breathing more from your diaphragm, or belly, not from your chest — that’s too shallow. Deep belly breathing allows you to take in more air, which can also help prevent side stitches.You should exhale through your mouth and try to focus on exhaling fully, which will remove more carbon dioxide and also help you inhale more deeply.
A4. It’s common to be nervous about what other runners or people driving by think when they pass you running. But try not to be concerned about what others think! Remember that all runners were new to the sport at some point, so they can all relate to the struggles that beginners face. If you’re worried about what non-runners think, try not to get too hung up on that. Just remind yourself of all the great benefits that you’re getting from running and they’re missing out on. Be proud that you’re doing something good for your physical and mental health. Like anything else, the first time is usually the hardest. Once you’ve run in public a few times, you’ll feel a lot more comfortable and be less concerned about others watching you.
A5. A side stitch, or a sharp pain on the lower edge of the ribcage, can be a huge annoyance for runners. To get rid of one, try gently pushing your fingers into the area where you’re feeling the stitch — that should help relieve some of the pain. Then, to get rid of the side stitch, try altering your breathing pattern. Take a deep breath in as quickly as you can, to force your diaphragm down. Hold your breath for a couple of seconds and then forcibly exhale through pursed lips.If you get a cramp in the middle of a run, you might want to try changing your breathing/striding pattern. If you always exhale when your right foot strikes the ground, try exhaling with the left foot strike.If all else fails, you may have to stop and walk briskly for a few seconds while concentrating on deep breathing. Continue running after the stitch goes away.
A6. Many runners, especially beginners, are curious about what pace they should be running. Most daily runs should be done at an “easy” pace. But what pace qualifies as “easy”? The perfect pace is different for everyone and the best and simplest way to determine this is to run slow enough so that you can carry on a conversation. If you’re running with someone, that means you should be able to speak in complete sentences, not just give “yes” or “no” answers. If you’re running alone, you should be able to sing “Happy Birthday” without gasping for air. For some new runners, a conversational pace may mean doing a run/walk combination .So, don’t worry about your pace per mile – if you can pass the “talk test”, you’re running at the right speed.
A7. It’s not a good idea to run immediately after eating because it may lead to cramping or side stitches. But running on an empty stomach may cause you to run out of energy. Your best bet is to eat a snack or light meal about 1 1/2 to 2 hours before you start running.Pick something high in carbohydrates and lower in fat, fiber, and protein. Some examples of good pre-workout fuel include: a bagel with peanut butter; turkey and cheese on whole wheat bread; a banana and an energy bar; or a bowl of cold cereal with a cup of milk. Stay away from rich, very fatty, or high-fiber foods, as they may cause gastrointestinal distress.
A8. As a new runner, it’s better for you to start with trying to increase the distance (or time, if you prefer to measure by time) of your runs. As you build up your endurance, your speed will also improve.Don’t rush into formal speed training, such as interval workouts, just yet. Doing too much running at too high an intensity is an easy way to get injured. After you’ve been running for about two months and have a nice base, you can start by adding strides into one of your weekly runs. You can also try picking up the pace towards the end of one of your runs. Wait until you’ve been running for 3-4 months before you start to add tempo runs, fartlek runs, or interval workouts.
A9. This is a very common question among new runners and there isn’t one answer that fits everyone, since beginner runners sometimes struggle for different reasons. Many new runners might think that the turning point is when they can run continuously for 30 minutes. At that point, they start to feel more comfortable and confident. So, it takes a little bit of patience to build up your fitness and get to a point where running feels easier. Just keep working on increasing your distance little by little – it does get easier.
A10. Most runners need at least one, even two, days off a week from running. Research has shown that taking at least one day off a week reduces the frequency of overuse injuries. If you take at least one day off, your body will have a chance to recover and repair itself. You’ll find that you’ll actually feel better during your runs.The best days for rest will depend on what type of runner you are and if you’re training for a specific event. If you tend to run a lot of miles on the weekends, then Monday might be a good rest day for you. If you’re training for a marathon and you do your long runs on Saturday, you may want to rest on Friday, so you have fresh legs for your long run.
A11. Choosing the right running shoes is one of the most important decisions you’ll make as a runner. Wearing the correct running shoes for your foot type and running gait will help you stay comfortable and injury-free. Your best bet is to find a running specialty store and have one of the salespeople measure your foot, assess your running gait, and recommend the right running shoes for you.
A12. If you find yourself stopping to pee during your long runs, you’re most likely drinking too much prior to your run. You should drink 16 to 24oz of (non-caffeinated) fluid 1 hour before your workout or race. Stop drinking after that, and keep emptying your bladder. Drink another 4 to 8oz of fluid about 10 minutes before you start running, so that you’re hydrated when you begin. To replace fluids while running, you should be drinking about 6 to 8 ounces of fluids every 20 minutes. If you hydrate properly like this, you shouldn’t have to stop to use the toilet.
A13. One of the great things about running is that it’s so convenient — in many cases, you can just head out your front door and go for a run.
If you’re planning on running on your local roads or pavements, make sure you look for routes that have minimal traffic and a wide shoulder (or pavement). And be sure to follow safety precautions for running outside. If you prefer not to run on roads, you might want to head to a local park, bike path, or trail.
A14. Running a 5K race is definitely a reasonable goal for beginner runners and training for a race will definitely help you stay motivated to keep running. Even someone who is fairly inactive (assuming he or she has been cleared to run) can be ready to run or run/walk a 5K with three months of training.
Following a training schedule like Couch-to-5K will help you safely prepare for a race and keep you on track. As you continue with the training, your fitness and your confidence will improve and you’ll feel more prepared for your race.
A15. Some people drink coffee before runs and never have any issues with it, but others experience gastrointenstinal issues. If you can tolerate it and actually need coffee to get you going in the morning, then keep enjoying it before your runs. You may even notice a little pep in your step, since pre-run caffeine has been shown to enhance performance and endurance. However, if you’re doing a race of 10K or longer, don’t consume more than 200 mg of caffeine (about 2 cups of coffee). Some experts believe too much caffeine may increase risk of cardiac events while running.
Also keep in mind that coffee is a mild diuretic (makes you have to urinate), so it’s not the same as hydrating with plain water. If you want a pre-run cup of coffee, drink it early enough that you’ll have time to use the bathroom, so you can avoid having to stop during your run.
A16. When deciding whether you should run with a cold, use the above/below the neck rule. If your symptoms are above the neck (runny nose, sneezing, sore throat) then, yes, you can run. Just take it easy and don’t do any intense workouts. If symptoms such as dizziness, nausea or profuse sweating occur, you should stop running. If your symptoms are below the neck (chest congestion, intense coughing, vomiting, diarrhea), let your illness run its course before you begin running again. Running under those conditions increases dehydration and may cause more serious issues. You also should never run if you have a high fever. And if your doctor advises you not to run, definitely take his or her advice.
Take off the next few days until you’re feeling better. And, don’t worry, you won’t lose much fitness. You’ll be back where you left off after a couple of runs.
Useful Links & Resources
|Original source||Information/Guidance||Download PDF|
||A guide on how to choose the running shoes for you, and what is important when buying your first running shoes.||Download|
||How to get the best of your body while running with nutritional advice.||Download|
||A dictionary of running terms for beginners.||Download|
Talk Xavi – the new onemedifund health & wellbeing forum
We have introduced the new onemedifund forum feature as part of the Xavi health & wellbeing programme. The new Talk xavi forum will help us to share our experiences on initiatives like the Couch-to-5k challenge. To start posting your comments, progress and experiences of the Couch-to-5K challenge click on the button below.View and post on the Couch-to-5K forum topic